Public Space Permits

Last Updated: 7-17-2017Print page

Photo of summer streets in Ballard.

The Public Space Management Program (PSM), part of SDOT’s Street Use Division, connects people with opportunities to expand and enliven public spaces while promoting a vibrant, safe, accessible, and attractive right of way. PSM develops and implements a variety of programs and also is responsible for a variety of permits.

PSM reviews private uses proposed in the public right-of-way. These uses can occur on the street, the sidewalk or planting strip, in an alley, in an unimproved street or alley, underground or under water and even in the air above a street right of way. Some uses may be for a short duration, such as an afternoon block party. Other uses may be for a longer duration and require construction, like a bench or sidewalk café.  

Private development projects, community or business organizations, homeowners, and businesses may propose to use the right-of-way in a way that triggers SDOT review and approval and a Public Space permit.

Public space permits are issued for approved privately-owned uses to track long-term ownership and maintenance responsibility. The Public Space permit is in addition to any required Street Use permits needed for construction of the use. Permits require a renewal fee and in some cases liability insurance or public place indemnity agreements. Although Public Space permits are issued for uses that may seem permanent, they are considered temporary in nature and are revocable within 30 days.

Permit types generally include:

  • Public Space Permit (Long-term uses)
    • Private business amenities and encroachments like sidewalk cafes, tables and chairs, merchandise display, material storage, street furniture, and signage.
    • Privately-owned structures like retaining walls, rockeries, stairways, fences, decks, structural building overhangs, areaways, and private utilities.
    • Shoreline Street End permits (see the urban design section for more information on the Shoreline Street End Program)
    • Neighborhood or community amenities and encroachments like pole banners, street decorations, lighting, street furniture, parklets, streateries, and art.
  • Limited-Duration Uses (see the Programming Public Spaces section for more details)
  • Council-Approved Term Permits

Depending upon the proposed use and scope, the permitting process will vary for Public Space permit. Some proposals will require consideration from other City departments or advisory committees including Historical or Landmark District Preservation Boards and the Design Commission. SDOT Public Space Management staff are available to coach applicants through the permitting process. 

The purpose of the Public Space permit is to clarify that the responsibilities for ownership and maintenance lie with the permit holder. In some cases, a bond may be required to deal with removal of a structure in the future, if necessary. If a public space indemnity agreement is required, the agreement is recorded at King County and become part of the property title documents that are recorded with the King County Recorder’s Office.